Royal historian Robert Lacey notes that the monarch's statement was "incredibly personal"

By Stephanie Petit and Simon Perry
January 13, 2020 01:28 PM
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Queen Elizabeth released a statement of support for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle‘s decision to step back from their roles as senior royals — but it’s not the outcome the monarch wanted.

“Today my family had very constructive discussions on the future of my grandson and his family,” the Queen, 93, said in a statement. “My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family.”

She continued, “Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.”

Royal historian and biographer of the Queen Robert Lacey notes that the monarch’s statement was “incredibly personal.”

“I can’t recall a royal statement where one gets the sense so much of the Queen herself speaking,” he tells PEOPLE. “Using phrases like ‘my family and I’ is very moving. It clearly shows her wish to resolve everything.”

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Ingrid Seward, the Queen’s biographer, adds: “It’s deliberately very vague and doesn’t tell us much apart from Harry and Meghan have won the first round. I’ve never seen a statement like that in 30 years. It was very personal and sounds very sad.”

Just hours after Harry and Meghan shared their plan to “carve out a progressive new role,” the monarch said the conversation is still in “early” stages.

“Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage. We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through,” the Queen’s office of Buckingham Palace said in a statement on Wednesday.

Meghan Markle, Prince Harry and Queen Elizabeth
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While there was some idea of the couple’s desire to take a different route, as discussions have been confirmed to be taking place, insiders tell PEOPLE that the monarch and senior members of the royal family, including Prince Charles and Prince William, were caught off guard by the release of the couple’s statement.

“There is a lot of hurt about this,” one royal source tells PEOPLE.

Prince Harry, Queen Elizabeth and Meghan Markle
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Palace sources told PEOPLE that the Queen ordered Harry, Prince William and Prince Charles to meet at her country home on Monday in order to “talk things through.” A source said it was likely Meghan would participate in the discussion on Monday via phone, as she recently returned to Vancouver Island, Canada, where she and Harry spent the holidays together with their son Archie.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
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An insider told PEOPLE that the announcement from Meghan, 38, and Harry, 35, left senior royals “hurt” and “deeply disappointed.”

The unprecedented family summit follows a series of emergency discussions across the last few days and raises the prospect that a solution is in sight that will work for the Sussexes and the royal family.

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“There is a range of possibilities for the family to review which take into account the thinking the Sussexes outlined earlier in the week,” the source said.

“As we have said previously, making a change to the working life and role of the monarchy for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex requires complex and thoughtful discussions. Next steps will be agreed at the meeting,” the source shared. “The request for this to be resolved ‘at pace’ is still Her Majesty’s wish. The aim remains days not weeks. There is genuine agreement and understanding that any decision will take time to be implemented.”